How To: Meal Plan

Hi friends! Happy Monday :) Last night, I made my dad and I baked salmon, which I had alongside pea soup and a sweet potato — one of the dinners I planned this week.

Every week (usually) I write out a meal plan. You either skip this post when I share it on Sundays or you might get some ideas for your own meals. To each their own.

I have been making weekly meal plans for awhile now. I started last year when I was living on my own (literally, no roomies) in college. It helped me save money, time, waste less food and stay on track. Even though I have roomies now (hi parents!) I still grocery shop and cook for myself — except when we have a family dinner.

I’m a planner. I totally get that this is not how everyone operates. But I am also a big believer that even having a flexible plan when it comes to food (and workouts) is so beneficial when aiming to live a healthy life.

Tupperware

When I first started planning and prepping, I was strict. Too strict. It was really hard for me to stray from “the plan” if something else came up. It was written on the calendar therefore it had to happen. Not exactly a healthy or calm mindset. Thankfully my best friend at the time really helped me to relax: to chuck the scheduled meal out the window and go for a spontaneous dinner. I am sure I frustrated him like no other but he was so patient and understood my feelings and I thank him for helping me learn to become more relaxed in my plan.

I’m often asked how I go about meal planning and prepping for the week. It’s really simple!

1. Figure out what I want to eat 

What fruits and veggies are in season? What protein is on sale? What did I have last week? What am I craving this week? What new recipes do I want to try? What do I want to cook?

2. Make the plan

Once I decide what I’m feeling, I write down some breakfast options, my lunch of choice (yes I eat one lunch all week or leftovers…) and a few dinner ideas. I don’t plan five dinners or have set-dinners for each day — I felt overly planned when doing this. So I usually have leftovers once a week, go out once a week and sometimes “wing it” with what I have on hand.

3. Go to the grocery store

Now that I know what I’m making, I need to buy all the ingredients. I usually grocery shop on Saturdays… um, kinda love grocery shopping, just saying.

4. Prep 

Over the weekend, I wash fruit, chop vegetables for my dinners, make my lunches (usually a big batch of something — like this week) and make sure I have quick snacks readily available (like homemade granola bars). Lately, I have been making a batch of soup too. Check out this post on food prep.

Food prep May 31, 2014.jpg

Ultimately, my main priorities are having my lunches made (because I’m in an office all day), having components of dinners prepped (because I’m hangry when I get home) and having quick snacks available (because I love to snack).

That’s really all there is to it. Sure, planning and prepping takes time in the moment but ultimately it saves time and makes for an easy week. It’s so nice looking in the fridge on a Wednesday night after a long day and seeing pre-chopped brussels sprouts, a sweet potato and a piece of pre-grilled chicken. Now that makes for a simple an efficient dinner.

As with everything in life, it’s all about finding a healthy balance.

 

 

Questions of the day…

What are your meal planning tips?

Food prepping tips? 

If you don’t meal plan or food prep, how do you tackle the week?

 

40 thoughts on “How To: Meal Plan

  1. I love prepping meals ahead too! While I get lunch at school, I’m on my own for dinner, so meal prep makes it 50 times easier on busy weeknights. I think it’s great that you prep not only meals but snacks too!

  2. You’re so good with your prepping! I was doing better over the summer, but I always struggle with prepping on the weekends (although planning is no problem). I always feel like if I chop and prep too early, some things will start to get funky by Thursday or Friday. Maybe I just need to be more strategic about what I eat on which days of the week?

  3. Girl, I am the same way about being too strict on myself and it is a constant struggle because that is just how my brain works. It will give me anxiety if I have not done what I have planned on doing.. I have gotten much better since making a conscious effort to not be so ‘crazy’! :) Meal prep is so beneficial to living a healthy lifestyle- great tips!

  4. I started meal planning sometime last year too. It just made my days so much easier and I found that planning ahead made it easier to try out new recipes! These days I don’t really make a strict meal plan but on weekends I try to prep at least one big dish that makes lots of leftovers plus make some components of meals like rice, roasted squash, snack balls, etc.

    Happy Monday girl! :)

  5. I love that after the gym I don’t have to sit there and make lunch, it’s so much easier just being able to grab it and go! Planning meals out makes me eat so much healthier too! If I wait to the last minute I usually order out or make something that is way less healthy then had I planned it out.

    -Elise @ 9toFit.com

  6. Love it! Great tips. I definitely want to make a batch of those homemade granola bars. And with winter coming up, soup is a great option! A big batch lasts you a week indeed :)

  7. I got waaaaay too obsessive about meal planning back in the day as well (we’re talking hours of planning/prepping every.single.day) , which kind of made me rebel in the opposite direction and not do any meal planning whatsoever. I’m at the point right now where I’m doing a little bit of prepping, but not much planning. I like to wash up all my veggies and make sure I always have some baked chicken and homemade snacks on hand, but other than that, things are pretty relaxed. I can imagine it would change if I needed to cook for someone other than myself, but since it’s just me, if all else fails, there’s always cereal to fall back on :D

  8. I’m definitely a meal planner – it’s just easier when you’re cooking for two people. Before I make a meal plan, I always take stock of what I have already that I can use. If I have an open can of tomato paste in the fridge, I try to figure out a meal where I can finish that off, or utilizing pasta sauce in the cupboards or meat in the freezer. It makes it easier to budget this way if I’m using up stuff I already have!

  9. To keep myself from getting too obsessed with sticking to the meal plan, I tend to keep breakfasts and lunches (my 3 or so fav breakfasts I rotate through and leftovers for lunch) up in the air and only plan out dinners for about 4 or 5 days. I give myself a couple open days to eat up leftovers or to leave days open if a meal out comes up. They way I can mix around the dinners as needed without wasting ingredients!

  10. I’m always impressed by people who do meal prep. Every now and then I get the urge to, but it’s pretty rare. The only thing I have trouble with is lunch during the work week. If I don’t have leftovers I end up eating out, which can get pretty expensive!

  11. Meal planning is the number one way that I can stay in budget for groceries. I tried this thing at the beginning of the year to “not be restrictive” with my eats and I ended up spending wayyyyy too much money. I learned that I absolutely need a meal plan because I will pick up anything that looks good if I don’t. I’m now at a happy balance where the past few weeks have been easier on the ol’ wallet and I can still change things around if I need to.

  12. Love that you and Davida posted about planning on the same day :). The truth is – I relate to BOTH posts! Like I told her, I am trying to learn to be more flexible in my planning because sometimes the lack of rigidity stresses me out, but at the same time I think that planning DOES make me much more productive, and is often the only way I will get accomplished everything I need to. Like most things, it’s all about finding a balance! Love your emphasis on produce that’s in season!

  13. Send me some of your meal planning skills! Really, though, it’s so impressive how well prepped you are.I’ve been meaning to start meal planning, too, but keep postponing it. It’d mostly be a great way – as you said – to save money and not just buy produce that’s on offer on a whim with no plan on how to use it.
    When I worked in a full-time internship I usually prepared some kind of stew lasting me for two days or cook a batch of grains for the week and then prepare different vegetable meals I’d add it to.

  14. I have also had to take a step back and remember that yes, it is okay NOT to eat the planned meal for the day. Such a delicate balance between having a plan and taking time to relax. I am reading this right after Davida’s post, so it’s interesting to see both perspectives. I think what both of your posts have in common is realizing that being too rigid isn’t healthy,and working to find a balance and moderation. That’s why I love both of you so much!

  15. great tips girly! I used to meal prep every Sunday for the following week, which I don’t normally do much of anymore. I do however meal plan every 2 weeks. I do most of my shopping bi-weekly because it seems to be easier to plan for two weeks buying in bulk at Costco!

    I normally plan out the meals for the next two weeks than make my grocery list from that meal plan. I swear it really makes things so much easier and cheaper!

  16. While there can be a line drawn between being obsessive and being flexible- those tips are great and can be useful to those of us less inclined to planning to incorporate :) You know my thoughts and expect part 2 of the thesis in the next 24 hours.

  17. I am definitely a meal planner too! It makes things so much easier, and I think it makes your grocery bill smaller. I am also a fan of meal prepping. If I have healthy food already made, I am much more likely to eat it. It also just saves time, and you have less dishes to wash. :)

  18. We are meal prep twins!! I am the same way…can’t be too planned otherwise I feel “trapped” but I have the ingredients for specific meals each week and I allow for some wiggle room. I love to take my time at the grocery and get all my veggies, fruits, and snacks ready to go on Saturday/Sunday for the week ahead. It just makes me feel so prepared and ready to go!!!

  19. It’s always fun to see how and why people do what they do in their life. I love the idea of having one lunch throughout the week. Before moving to Kuwait (when I was still working), I would always meal prep on Sundays. However, being a housewife I don’t make it a priority to get foods washed & chopped before the week begins. I will plan out the dinners we’re having, but that’s about it these days.

    Question: you have any good Kale recipes worth mentioning?

  20. I don’t always meal plan but I have a few recipe ideas in my head when I buy ingredients or I buy ingredients that I know I could use for a few different meals depending on what I feel like. I don’t like to always lock down a specific meal to a specific day in case on the day I don’t feel like it.

    I do need to get better with it though as I find dinners tend to be same old thing if I don’t actively look for new recipes which I haven’t been lately.

    Love all of these tips!

  21. Ooh I love this! I live with my dad too but I do all the grocery shopping and we kind of take turns cooking things. I try to think about what I can take to work all week (soup, salad, sandwiches, leftovers) and make that on Sundays. Then I think of 1-2 dinners since some nights we aren’t home or aren’t hungry enough for a full dinner, etc.

Leave a Reply